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Search for pilot continues after jet crash

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF- RICHARDSON - An aerial search was scheduled to continue throughout the night for the pilot of an Air Force F-22 fighter jet that crashed in a remote area of interior Alaska during a training exercise.

Rescue aircraft spotted the wreckage Wednesday about 100 miles north of Anchorage, and pararescuemen from the Alaska Air National Guard scoured the crash site until being flown out for the night.

"There's no sign of the pilot at this point, from what I've been told," guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said.

But he said two Air Guard helicopters and a C-130 airplane planned to continue searching throughout the night for a sign that the pilot had ejected and survived, such as a parachute or a campfire.

The pilot's name has not been released.

The single-seat jet took off Tuesday from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on a training run.

It was in the air about an hour and 20 minutes and was nearing the end of the training run at 7:40 p.m. when ground radar lost track of it and another pilot on the mission lost communications, said Air Force Col. Jack McMullen, the base 3rd Wing commander.

The pilot had split off from the other jet and was about to do a "rejoin" before both returned to Anchorage as a unit flying about two miles apart, McMullen said.

The other pilot refueled in the air and began searching for the missing aircraft.

The Alaska Air National Guard aircraft joined the search and continued until about 5 a.m. Wednesday. New crews then picked up the search.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage at 10:15 a.m. but did not immediately land because of the threat of hazardous materials.

"It was being considered a haz-mat scene," Hayes said. "They had to get the right gear flown out there to the location so that the pararescuemen and the crash site recovery folks could safely get down there and do a search."

If the pilot ejected, he would be prepared for subzero weather, McMullen said.

"They have survival gear," McMullen said. "He's Arctic trained to survive in that environment. He's got the gear on. He's got stuff in his survival kit, so that he could hunker himself down and fight the extreme cold."

The twin-engine F-22 Raptor entered service in the mid-2000s and arrived at Elmendorf in August 2007. It's far more maneuverable and stealthy than earlier jets and can cruise at more than 1 1/2 times the speed of sound without using its afterburner. Its top speed is confidential.

Congress last year stopped production of the plane, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., by eliminating $1.75 billion that would have added seven F-22s to the Air Force's fleet.

An F-22 crashed in March 2009 near Edwards Air Force Base in California, killing the pilot. In July, a C-17 cargo jet from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf crashed during a training demonstration for an air show, killing all four crewmen aboard.

Pararescuers will return Thursday, Hayes said.

"They're going to put them back in at first light, or they'll put in somebody - a crash recovery team or somebody."



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